There is something that keeps happening on Orphan Black that is one of the best things I think I’ve ever seen on TV: the ability of each the clones to say “Don’t touch me.” This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Women grow up in a world where their body is not necessarily theirs alone. It is for other men and women to look at, to ogle, to touch. Pregnant women have to deal with strangers touching their stomachs without permission. Women on the subway have to shrink into themselves, to take up as little space as possible because the man next to them is sitting as though to take up all the space he can. We have been socialized to believe that touching is always allowed, by spouses, by family, by friends, and by strangers, no matter what we’ve gone through in our lives, no matter how we feel about being touched, as long as it’s not “bad touching” (this is simplistic, but the less simple is far too much to get into here).
But the women on Orphan Black have used both verbal and non-verbal cues to express their need to NOT be touched (Rachel is the exception, currently, having only said out loud to Sarah that no one lays hands on her as a threat). Sarah dodges around Paul at their first meeting in the bedroom, Alison slaps Donnie when he tries to initiate sex, Cosima shifts away from Delphine when she finds out her tag number. Helena gives off an aura of “Don’t come close.” And then we have these verbal statements. Each is important not only for the woman saying the words, but the reactions to them. Paul (thinking Sarah is Beth, though that’s besides the point) reacts in an unnecessarily ridiculous and grandiose way, making fun of and belitting his significant other. Sarah, as another woman talking to a woman who is a stranger, backs away from Alison. Delphine doesn’t try to touch Cosima again, scoots closer on the couch but still leaves space between them, and speaks to her as an equal. Art completely demeans Helena, doesn’t even try to respect her feelings, and overpowers her. He’s got his reasons, yes, but this is a girl who’s been used and abused for most of her life. You can see her expression go dead-eyed as he manhandles her. Lastly, Paul expects things to go a certain way, and acts on his own expectations. He knows better than to react like he did to Sarah as Beth though when Rachel slaps him, her non-verbal but obvious cue not to touch her, and instead follows her lead afterwards.
I honestly believe, in the same way gay characters on TV help gay kids to come out, that if even one girl or woman learns from watching Orphan Black to say “Don’t touch me” to someone without thinking they’re out of line or are doing something wrong, and if anyone, man or woman, thinks before trying to belittle or get offended by someone saying “Don’t touch me,” this show is doing more for the women and the men who watch it than perhaps any other show on TV.
Delphine saying “give all your sisters my love” hurt me so badly. That’s Cosima’s biggest request was that she loved them too, and those were her parting words and that’s the best thing that she could have said. Especially since she told Shay that she wouldn’t get in the way anymore. She didn’t leave saying “I love you” as last words. She left honoring the last two promises that she made for Cosima.
I honestly think Cosima is by far the most innocent/inexperienced of all the clones. I mean:
Sarah’s a street rat, an orphan, FAKED HER OWN DEATH TO ESCAPE FROM AN ABUSIVE BOYFRIEND, among many other things. No innocence left there, really.
Alison clearly has deep-seated issues – she suffers from extreme paranoia, abuses pills and alchohol, and keeps herself incredibly tightly controlled at all times. And in my own personal experience, no one who has that many defensive walls up has not been through some pretty shitty things in their life.
Helena is a given; clearly lived a life full of abuse and little else, killed who knows how many of her clones, and is so maladjusted and damaged that she truly cannot function as a part of society.
Beth, like Alison, had a problem with abusing medications. She also has killed someone, and the revelations she had about Paul that led up to her suicide set fire to any notions of Beth having had a good, or an easy, life.
We know very little about Katja, but we DO KNOW that she was 1: dying of a respiratory illness, and 2: actively on the run (for who knows how long or across how many countries). So again, not innocent or inexperienced.
And then there’s Rachel, whom again we know very little about yet. So in this case, I can only go on with my gut. But the air of confidence and superiority that she carries is not one that people are born with. You only ever see that with characters that are confident in their knowledge of the way the world works, and their ability to manipulate that world (which she is so clearly accustomed to doing).
BUT I DIGRESS FOR TOO LONG, SO NOW BACK TO MY ORIGINAL POINT.
Cosima is the most innocent and inexperienced of the clones we have met thus far.
Why? Let’s see.
She’s a PhD student, meaning in all likelihood she has been very much focused on science and academics and her career as an evolutionary and developmental scientist.
She’s portrayed as generally alone and isolated, not just from the other clones as would make sense by virtue of her living some distance away from them, but in her life in Minnesota. The only person we see her interact with socially (other than Delphine, whom I’ll get to later) is Scott, who is presented more as the geek lackey than as a friend or even a peer.
Now clearly Cosima does have SOME life experience, and has had to deal with some difficult things of her own (as of course, she too is involved in the business with the clones, both in terms of trying not to get killed by Helena, and trying to deal with the same illness that had been afflicting Katja). We also know that she smokes pot, and given the way that it was handled with Delphine, it is very easy and natural to assume that she has had sex before.
In terms of Cosima’s social life, her relationships with other human beings in terms of the personal, rather than the professional or academic, it seems that the most likely scenario is that she really has relatively little experience in it at all.
She approaches Delphine, knowing that she is her monitor going in, with a striking naivete that I can’t imagine witnessing in someone who had much of a measure of experience when it came to romantic relationships.
She trusts Delphine all too readily, despite the fact that she knows very well half of what she tells her is lies. Delphine and she fall into a romantic, sexual relationship ridiculously fast – knowing each other for what can’t be more than a couple weeks before kissing and almost immediately falling into bed with each other.
They go from this (just upon meeting)
and then from there STRAIGHT to this
all in the matter of what seems like only a few days!
Even without everything that Cosima specifically has to be worried about or wary of, people don’t tend to get that deeply involved that quickly. People have their own hesitancies, their own reasons for pacing themselves; but Cosima seems to have very little of that, if any at all.
Beyond the quickness with which their relationship grows, there is the very clear way Cosima feels about it. She approaches and reacts to the developments between she and Delphine with an almost childlike joy that comes across as entirely and endearingly innocent.
So given how inexperienced and innocent Cosima comes across as when it comes to relationships of this nature, doesn’t that make what happened with Delphine just that much more heartbreaking?
Cosima, as I see it, has NEVER dealt with this kind of betrayal before. When she realizes that Delphine had sold her out, not only does she finally recognize (and vocalize) how entirely open she had left herself to such betrayal (“I’m so stupid”/“I’m such an idiot”), but is almost dazed at the realization that someone she had trusted had betrayed her like that.
In the end, when she finally does confront Delphine about what she did, she is incredibly distraught, visibly struggling throughout the argument to maintain any semblance of composure and in the end does everything she can to get Delphine away from her, starting at this
and ending at the infamous and cuttingly personal
By the time Delphine is finally walking out the door, BEFORE SHE EVEN CLOSES IT, Cosima can’t keep it together any longer and lets out a gut wrenching sob.
BEAR WITH ME I SWEAR I HAVE A POSITIVE CONCLUSION TO THIS.
The fact that Cosima does have that innocence and that trustingness is what makes Cophine such a beautiful ship. Because despite the shock and the pain that she felt upon discovering Delphine’s betrayal, she DIDN’T LET IT RUIN HER. The next time she saw Delphine, she started out angry and closed off.
Then, gradually, Delphine is able to wear down the walls she is keeping up to protect herself, and Cosima begins to doubt.
And by the end of the encounter, Cosima has let her back in.
Maybe (probably) not entirely, but she HAS. She lets Delphine help her, she confides in her about something she hasn’t even told her sisters yet, and turns to her for comfort and reassurance. And this, ALL A DAY AFTER FINDING OUT ABOUT DELPHINE’S BETRAYAL.
And that is why Cosima being the innocent clone is such a wonderful thing. Because she cares, loves, openly and freely. Because she trusts, and gives people second chances. Because she doesn’t let her wounds, her scars, become who she is.
Cosima has a strength in her that none of the others have. Because she has the strength to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to live without armor and without hiding.
Imagine Cosima and Delphine finally back together and there are no words spoken between them; it’s just happy tears and messy kisses, exploring touches and elated sighs. And then imagine Cosima running her hands up the inside of Delphine’s shirt, only to feel an anomaly that wasn’t there before and imagine Delphine jolting slightly, the sensation of the touch neither pained or pleasant; it’s just unprecedented. And imagine Cosima searching Delphine’s face, trying to make sure she has invitation to proceed; taking Delphine’s shirt in her hands, lifting it above her head, and looking over the scar; so small, neatly mended, yet a stark reminder that Delphine’s life was almost lost. And imagine Cosima biting down on her lip, looking at Delphine with intense eyes and running her fingertips over the scar. Imagine Cosima lowering her face to meet it, kissing it gently, thankfully, and then returning to kiss Delphine; passionately, assuredly, indebted.